Source: | Mafany Tande Myles, Cameroon

After several failed attempts by big names like the United States, United Nations Security Council and the African Union to negotiate peace talks between the Cameroonian army and the pro-independence fighters, the next attempt by Switzerland to mediate the situation has gained global attention.

The Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was concerned about the continuing violence in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. “Switzerland has long been committed, both at bilateral and multilateral level, to finding a peaceful solution to the crisis and to promote respect for human rights in Cameroon,” it said. “Switzerland is also committed to providing humanitarian aid to the affected local population and has supported Cameroon in dealing with multilingualism.” The aim of the three-day meeting which ended on Thursday, June 27, was to prepare the future peace negotiations between the Cameroonian government and the various oppositions.

Swiss police outside the Intercontinental after the incident with the Swiss journalist

Meanwhile, on Wednesday, June 26, a Swiss journalist was manhandled in front of the Intercontinental Hotel where President Biya and wife Chantal were staying. This happened after the presidential guard jumped on the anti-Biya protesters outside the hotel and the Swiss journalist who was filming, remained standing. He later filed a case against his oppressors. Not so long after, Cameroonian Ambassador to Switzerland, H.E. Léonard Henri Bindzi was summoned in Bern and made to understand by the Swiss foreign ministry that such incidents are unacceptable, and that freedom of the press is protected and must be respected.

Tibor P. Naggy, United States Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, who had once paid a visit to Cameroon and condemned the atmosphere he met, expressed satisfaction in Switzerland’s move towards mediating in the situation.

Protesters are unhappy with Switzerland’s silence on Biya’s frequent visits. Worth noting is that Switzerland is a politically neutral nation, and “as a legitimate head of state, Paul Biya has a right to travel, especially to Geneva which is the seat of many international organizations,” says Marc Guéniat, Senior Researcher at Swiss NGO Public Eye. Pro-Biya supporters were chased away from the Intercontinental this Saturday, June 29 as the anti-Biya protesters gathered for another showdown.

The Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, Switzerland

“That is taxpayers money,” said one protester. According to a source, the Intercontinental vacates the entire sixteenth floor for Biya and his entourage, and occasionally some 30 additional rooms on other floors. As head of state, Biya enjoys diplomatic immunity. He is not wanted by Interpol nor is he on trial either. How he lives, spends or moves can not be questioned or investigated by any government, let alone by a neutral nation such as Switzerland.

His credibility has been questioned though. Having won the October 2018 presidential election for a seventh term amidst the ongoing crisis has raised some alarms. Mindful of the fact that Cameroon is ranked among the most corrupt nations. Some people believe the Swiss government can do more regarding Biya and his frequent visits to Switzerland.

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